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Nintendo Says "See It. Touch It. Play It."

Nintendo DS shirtIn the old days of E3 in the mid-2000s, video game publishers were more generous with their promotional handouts than they have been in recent years.  It wasn't uncommon to find people lugging sacks of collected goodies around with them as they trudged between North and West Halls at the Los Angeles Convention Center.  2004 was my first year in the video game reviewing biz, and at the time I was working for GameCube Advanced, a little outlet that would later go in to become Kombo.  Being new to the GCA group in 2004, I worked the so-called homebound team covering E3 that year, writing up previews and opinion pieces based on the material that our on-site team in Los Angeles would send back after a long day on the show floor (remember, this was before the convenience of iPhones and ubiquitous Wi-Fi).  It was a long week of late hours, so as a thank you gesture, the on-site team sent all of us at home a box of E3 hand-outs.  The best and most interesting thing I received in that box was this Nintendo DS t-shirt that was handed out as part of the handheld's premiere.  What's especially interesting about it is that the DS design on the shirt is not the final design that would ship to stores later that year, but is the iteration of the handheld that Nintendo was showing at E3.  Take a trip back on memory lane to IGN's archives if you'd like to see more of the original DS design.  I'm just here to show you the shirt.

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Two Months In, I've Barely Put My Nintendo Switch On The Dock

BowserOne of the great things about the Nintendo Switch is the many ways it's possible to play it: on the television in its dock, as a Game Boy Advance-style handheld, propped up on its kickstand, etc.  Over at Kotaku, Patricia Hernandez is talking about how she's barely taken her Switch out of its dock and has been playing it exclusively as a traditional home console, and this kind of article pretty much invites the community to respond with all of the neat ways its played with the Switch.  Here's Patricia:

The big concept behind the Nintendo Switch is that it can be enjoyed both on the TV, and in handheld mode. Instead, the Switch largely operates like any other console system in my household, and I like it that way.

Oh, I’ve tried to take the Switch with me. I’ve braved the dangers of on-the-road scratches, I’ve propped the console up on its tiny stand, Joy-Con in each hand. The idea of taking Zelda anywhere with me is nice, but I don’t like the actual experience of playing the Switch on-the-go.

The general consensus is that players are either playing the Switch docked to the television or carrying it around as a traditional handheld out into the world, but there's a variation missing from her assumptions, and it's the one that I've favored in my two months with the Switch.  To my surprise, I've played a decent 80% of my Switch time as a handheld in my house.  I started out playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild purely on my television in full HD glory with a vow that I would only handle fetch quest busy work errands in handheld mode.  I wanted to experience the major moments of the game on the big screen.  The little stuff like gathering monster parts and scouting shrines could happen while I was laying in bed in the evenings, typically with a classic episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 playing in the background.

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Mini-Review: Mega Man X: Command Mission

Mega Man X: Command MissionThis article was originally published at Kombo.com on October 13, 2004. 

Capcom's futuristic take on the blue bomber has resulted in some of gaming's most memorable side-scrolling platformer games, but in recent years Mega Man X has begun to slip somewhat. His more recent adventures have been half-hearted misfires, containing more frustrating moments than actual fun. Poor localization/translation has also dogged the series in addition to some rather dismal voice acting. The Mega Man X storyline has also been circling the drain for some time, as one game in the series contradicts another (the end of Mega Man X6 proclaims that X's Maverick Hunter partner Zero has gone into a deep sleep for one hundred years so that he can star in the spin-off series Mega Man Zero, and yet Zero appears alive and well in Mega Man X7 and X8) and, on occasion, one game will contradict itself. When Capcom announced that an RPG starring X and friends was in development many fans shuddered at the thought of the company that seemingly couldn't tell a consistent story in an action game taking a stab at a plot-intensive RPG. It would seem those fears are misplaced, as X's first RPG — Mega Man X: Command Mission for the Nintendo GameCube and Sony PlayStation 2 — actually tells a coherent story and features voice acting from actors who can actually, well, act. Add in a deeply customizable battle system and plenty of playable characters and it would appear that if this is Capcom's attempt at bringing some cohesion to the Mega Man X saga, than they look to be successful.

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Wario Is The Crossover Hero We Need

Wario Ducktales

Nintendo and Hudson briefly took greedy anti-hero Wario in a surprising direction in 1994 when they dropped him into Bomberman's world in the Game Boy title Wario Blast.  For a hot second there I had hoped that this collaboration would be the beginning of a fun new career for Wario: professional party crasher.  I wanted him to drop into other game properties where he may not exactly be welcome and cause all kinds of trouble.  Imagine the possibilities!  Mega Man discovers that Wario has sold the Robot Masters for scrap.  Teenager Dave turns to his friends Bernard and Wario to save Sandy from Dr. Fred in Maniac Mansion.  Dracula gets more than he bargained for when Wario raids Castlevania. 

Above all else, I truly believe that the world is a poorer place because we were never given the natural team-up adventure with Wario and Scrooge McDuck of Ducktales scouring the world in search of treasure.  Working as reluctant partners in search of gold, they could work together until the time was right to try and screw the other over.  The co-op gameplay opportunities practically program themselves!  I know you're nodding your head in agreement right now as you read this.   It's the crossover you never know you needed in your life.  Nintendo, Disney, and Capcom, please start making calls.  This needs to happen!

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Power Button - Episode 237: Back To The Wild With The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

Power ButtonIt's been a few weeks since we checked in with my progress in Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, so it's time to dip back into the action as I explore Death Mountain with the help of a stupid Goron guide, attempt to ride an electric dragon, and stumble through a ninja hideout where the locals love their bananas.  Join Blake Grundman and I for an hour of discussion.   Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes and Google Play, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton. We also have a tip jar if you'd like to kick a dollar or two of support our way.


Will You Buy Street Fighter II Again?

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final ChallengersCapcom's Street Fighter II has been ported to all kinds of game consoles and computers.  You can find it on the Super NES and Sega Genesis, of course, where it premiered as one of the best selling arcade ports of the 1990s, but it's also available on the Game Boy, Commodore 64, Amiga, Master System, Saturn, TurboGrafx-16, Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, New 3DS, PlayStation Portable... my point is that it's widely available on just about every platform out there.  You most likely own one if not multiple options for playing Street Fighter II in one form or another.  Now Capcom is about to release it yet again, this time for the Nintendo Switch as Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers at a MSRP of $39.99.  That feels very steep for a game that has been around the block this many times, but Capcom has added some new features to the game for its Switch debut.  Nintendo UK offers up the complete list, while Javy Gwaltney at Game Informer summarizes the details

The standout addition is the Way of the Hado, a motion control first-person action game that's goal is to make the player "feel what it’s like to be Ryu." Staple modes like Arcade and Versus will also be included alongside Buddy Mode, a tag team battle mode, and Fight Requests as well as the ability to save replays of your matches.

There's also a digital art book included.  While I would like to have Street Fighter II on my Switch, I have to admit that I'm on the fence about it over the cost, but as I think about that, I wonder if I'm not actually the target market for this version of the game.  I first played Street Fighter II on a neighbor friend's Super NES back in 1992 and have kept up with the latest updates to it over the years.  I bought it on PS2 as part of an anniversary compilation, I own it on PS3 as the HD Remix upgrade, and I carry it in my pocket on my iPhone as a decently playable app.  I also own Street Fighter III on PS3 and Street Fighter IV on PS3, PS4, 3DS, and iOS.  I even have the underwhelming Street Fighter V on my PS4.  Clearly my Street Fighter needs are met.

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Zelda: Breath Of The Wild's Yiga Hideout Drove Me Bananas

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I was doing very well in Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild until the time came to infiltrate the Yiga Clan's mountain hideout.  In my travels across Hyrule I had run into members of the Yiga Clan a few times out on the trails.  They are the game's ninjas; secretive folks trained in sword combat who have turned against goodness and light with a pledge to serve Calamity Ganon which means that they are gunning for Link and are eager to take him down.  As part of my quest to find the Divine Beast of the desert, I had to recover the stolen Thunder Helm for the leader of the Gerudo tribe, and since the Yiga had stolen it, that meant I had to storm their base.  That's when everything went to hell for me and I had to take a three week break from the game because, Hylia help me, I just couldn't do it.

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The Legend Of Zelda Escape Room Sounds Like A Letdown

The Legend Of ZeldaI've never participated in an escape room (one of those new business ventures popping up around the country in which players must solve puzzles to physically escape a room before time expires), but it sounds like something I'd like to try.  When the news broke that Nintendo had teamed with escape room company Scrap to create an encounter based on The Legend of Zelda, my interest shot way up, but after reading about Kotaku's Jason Schreier's experience at Defenders of the Triforce, I can't say that I'm that intrigued anymore.  It's less of an escape room and more of a shared environment full of brain teasers.

The event opened with a quick video presentation, as we learned (via N64-era, Ocarina of Time-style graphics) that Ganon had successfully destroyed Hyrule and trapped both Link and Zelda in crystallized prisons. A charismatic, bearded actor took the stage and gave us the rules: each table (of six) would have 60 minutes to solve the game’s puzzles. Beating Ganon would require us to figure out a series of Zelda-themed brain-teasers, like forming a map out of puzzle pieces and converting Hylian symbols into numbers.

I was expecting something with higher production values and with only a single team running the event at a time, although that may be impractical for an event that breaks apart quickly to travel to a different city.  This is a traveling attraction, after all.  Frankly, when I hear about escape rooms, I imagine something like this segment from Conan in which Conan O'Brien tries to escape from a detective's office while solving a mystery.

Give me something like this themed around Zelda and we're all set!  I want a small interactive Zelda dungeon, not worksheets at a table in an auditorium.  To Scrap's credit, buried in their website's FAQ section is the explanation "this is NOT a traditional escape room (i.e. locked inside a room). It is a fully hosted, story-based escape event designed for puzzle fans and fans of the Zelda franchise. There will be multiple teams in the event space all participating at the same time, and each team will have their own table to work at when not exploring," but the event still reads as underwhelming.  They didn't even have enough green hats for all of the paying customers.  How disappointing.


Nintendo PlayStation Whirs To Life

Nintendo PlayStationFollowing the unlikely discovery at an estate sale, enthusiasts have been able to restore a prototype Nintendo PlayStation (that is, a Super Famicom merged with an unreleased CD-ROM attachment created as part of a short-lived Nintendo/Sony alliance in the early 1990s) to full working over.  Kyle Orland at Ars Technica tells the story of how the device was brought back to life and what it's future holds.  The big question about all of this is: since there is no official software for it, what can one play on a Super NES with a CD drive?

"I should really loan this to one of the emulator writers," Heck says in the video. "The bootstrap code to load games needs to be tweaked now that programmers know how actual hardware works... now it's down to the programmers learning what the hardware can actually do versus what they thought it could do."

As a practical matter, getting the Nintendo PlayStation "fully functional" isn't much more than a historical oddity. There's no known "official" software floating around for the system, and even homebrew games play pretty much identically to regular SNES cartridges (just with lots of additional storage space for music, levels, and the like).

It would be interesting to see homebrew game developers craft new Super NES games that take advantage of the extra storage space that a CD can offer, although anything they create could only be played on this one console.  Of course, then we get into emulation which would expand those games to the masses if Super NES emulator creators add the CD-ROM expansion to their software.  This could revitalize the Super NES emulation community.  It would be great to see well-crafted hacks and expansions of familiar games like, just spitballing here, a Super Metroid iteration featuring multiple planets or a The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past adventure with more than just a Light and Dark world available.  Beyond that, I'd love to see actual original games made for this console's capabilities.  Just kick out the back wall of the stock Super NES's limitations and go nuts with the extra CD power.  Of course, I've wanted to see that since 1992 when a CD-ROM expansion for the Super NES was first rumored!


Mini-Review: Chrono Trigger

Chrono TriggerThis article was originally published at Kombo.com on December 16, 2008. 

Once upon a time (say, 13 years ago) famed RPG powerhouse Square released Chrono Trigger for the Super NES. The game's engrossing tale of a spiky-haired young man, his platonic inventor friend, a rebellious tomboy princess, a humanoid frog knight, a clunky robot from the dim future, and a spunky cavegirl with reptile issues that team up to travel across time to defeat an evil planet-devouring parasite from outer space became a 16-bit classic. The game has commanded high prices on the used game market and an ever-growing legion of loyal fans over the years, and now the adventure is back for the Nintendo DS for a whole new generation of fans to discover (and for the rest of us to enjoy all over again).

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